Travel has many problems yet budgeting isn’t one

We’re asked on a not so regular basis how we manage to control and check our travel budget. It’s a fair enough question and one that I’m always more than happy to answer.

I’ll preface this post by saying that, a) I’m a project manager by profession which meant that, b) from the outset of deciding to travel I knew I’d have that whole budget thing hanging over me constantly if I didn’t plan on how I could monitor and control it. 

By controlling and monitoring the budget in a simple way I could then put it to the back of my mind and focus on the important things like lobster meals, snorkelling with sea turtles, mountain hiking in Peru, finding lost cities, driving through deserts, etc, etc…

Here’s how we’ve put our travel budget to the back of our mind:

1) How Much Dollar Do We Need?

We decided on our approximate daily budget range and decided on how long we wanted to travel for. We then simply multiplied x by y to give us the golden number of dollars we’d need to save up before heading to Nicaragua on March 12th 2015. Yes, the harder part was saving and, for us, this happened over many a moon.

2) Find A Tool To Rule Them All

The project manager in me thought, “there must be a simple application or online tool that someone else smarter than me has built to make my job easier by removing all the arduous admin work involved in keeping track of expenses and our budget.” Or something to that effect.

Thankfully, the answer was a resounding “Yes Matt, there is.” And there was much rejoicing. By me. Quietly. On my own. 

Cynthia by this point had delegated this entire budget monitoring project to me to ensure she could focus properly on googling “how long is too long to spend at a beach in the sun?” Followed closely by “Is there ever a ‘too long’ to spend at a beach?” She’s yet to find the answer.

Anyhow, THE tool. We use the incredibly easy to use Trail Wallet. It’s an app created by travelers for travelers and I cannot recommend this enough. 

3) Learn To Use And Set Up Trail Wallet

This step is pretty straightforward because, well, the app is just so perfectly easy to use.

  • First, watch the helpful video on the Voyager Apps website to get to know all the features of Trail Wallet.
  • Then, go to your newly installed app and add a new trip and give it a name!
  • Then, if you have your magic budget number already you can enter in a start and end date and then enter in your total trip budget. Don’t worry, you can edit all these at any time so if your trip goes on further then you can extend that end date. If you win the lottery and your budget increases, you can increase it!
  • You can then enter in currencies. We started with Nicaraguan Cordobas and then added new currencies as we moved onto different countries. We also used Canadian Dollars as this is our home currency. (p.s. When you’re connected to WiFi, you can update the exchange rates.)
  • Exit out of there to your home screen and then click on your trip. The next screen is where you’ll have all your information handy to you.

Once we completed all this, we were trained up and ready to start tracking expenses and therefore ready to begin monitoring and controlling our year-long travel budget! Waahooo!

4) Start Tracking Those Expenses

Yes, for this gem of an app to work and for you to end those sleepless nights wondering how much money you have to spend per day today and how much you have left in the piggy bank… You do need to enter in EVERY expense.

Just simply go to your trip homepage, click the plus sign, enter in the amount, ensure its the correct currency (hint: don’t mix up those Colombian Pesos for Chilean Pesos!) and, if you like, select a category (see below) of expense and add a note. 

That’s it. It’s quicker than writing it down on putting it in your notes. Plus, the app will subtract the amount from your trip and daily budget and it will tell you what your “adjusted budget” (see below) is now. 

So, so easy yet nice and effective.

5) Keep On Repeating Step 4 So You Can Monitor at your Leisure!

That’s right, we enter every expense so that now we can still see our daily budget as it was at the start of the trip yet now we can also see our adjusted daily budget (if you tap on your budget that appears on your trip home screen) to see how it’s increased over time because of all those days that have come under budget, again, waahoooo!

In settings you can add, edit and remove categories. We like categories because we can use the apps built in charts function to see precisely where our money has been going. We use big catch all categories like “accomodation” and “food/groceries/water”. We’re up to 12 categories now and it’s no surprise that accomodation and food is where most of that money has gone.

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So, that’s how we do it. We found and downloaded an app and we use it on a daily basis. 

The project manager in me is content because I can monitor and control our budget very very easily. And Cynthia and I can always sleep without worrying about unanswered questions surrounding money when traveling. We’ve always got the answers in our Trail Wallet

— Matt

Visit The Actual Equator in Ecuador

When you hear the word equator, what do you see? A tropical paradise? A perfect line that divides the world in half? Yourself, straddling the Northern and Southern Hemispheres?

How about Ecuador? 

What, no takers? 

Well, you can add Ecuador to your list of things to picture the next time to you hear the word equator. After all, the country was named after the famous diving line!

the equator
that’d be the equator

Of course, when we were in Ecuador in July this summer, we just HAD to take a little trip to the equator. Afterall, I’d been dreaming of standing in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres AT THE SAME TIME for as long as I can remember! 

Just joking, I hardly thought about it…

But being just a short drive away from the actual equator, a spark was ignited and I wanted to be in two places at once. That, my friends and family, has been an actual dream of mine.

Because it’s cool! And not something you can do everyday.

Cynthia laying on the equator
I had an overwhelming urge to lay on the equator
Cyn and Matt standing on the equator in Ecuador
selfie on the equator in Ecuador

We didn’t make a special trip just for those fantastic photos, although you could if you wanted to. We went as part of a day trip from Quito with Community Hostel

It might be worth a seperate trip, but I do think it’s pretty cool to be able to aay that we stood on the actual equator.  

Oh, and we also saw someone propose there! Awwww how cute! 

– Cyn 

I Almost Made Us Miss Out On Laguna 69

See why it would’ve been a tragedy?!

Laguna 69 is the most popular day hike from Huaraz, Peru, and for good reason. It’s a gorgeous 5-6 hour non-technical hike through the Cordillera Blanca in Huascarán National Park. When you reach Laguna 69, it’s impossible not to overwhelmed by it’s beauty.

  
The thing is, the popularity of this hike put me off. I didn’t want to be hiking in a never-ending line of tourists. I’m not a salmon!

I wanted to feel special.

Plus, I figured that there’s no way Laguna 69 could actually be THAT colour. No. No, surely people edit the crap out of their photos. 

So we decided that nope, we’re not hiking Laguna 69 because the whole world has done it. 

And so we did a different day hike, which was awesome but too hard. We had to turn back. I’ll tell you about it another time, okay?

After that hike, we decided that a multi-day trek was out of the question. The altitude wasn’t really agreeing with us and we didn’t want to risk 4 days of agony. Matt and I try to live our lives by this: if it’s not fun, it’s cut. 

A little disappointed, it was time to go onwards and upwards. 

And that meant hiking Laguna 69 to see what all the fuss was about.

So we actually did do the hike. And my god, was it worth it. 

I’ve never see something so beautiful. 

  

    

  

 

  

  

  
 

Some things really are worth the hype!

– Cyn

Distance: 12 km

Altitude: 3900m to 4600m

Rating: moderate

Mountain Biking Ecuador’s Highest Mountain

Elbow pads, check. Knee pads, check. Shin pads, check. Helmet, check. Gloves, check. Balaclava, check. Breaks work. Gears works. Seat’s my height. 

And we’re off, flying down Chimborazo!!

Actually no, we weren’t flying.

I was squeezing the breaks on my bike as hard as I possibly could without actually stopping the bike. My legs were shaking, my heart was pounding. I’d never mountain biked before.

And I was afraid I was going to rip down the mountain, slide on gravel or loose dirt, and go straight over the side.

Sure, it’d be the most direct way down, but that’s not exactly what I was going for.

For the first 5 minutes, I desperately wanted flat pavement. Then I kind of got into a groove. 

 

It was a blast! My favourite part was going through the rural villages but I enjoyed all of it. On the mountain, I felt so connected to the earth.

At one point, I was going along a dirt track, doing a great job of dodging giant tuffs of mountain grass that I thought might throw me off the bike. It was so peaceful – not a sound except the crunching of the earth beneath my tires.

I let my mind drift away from the ground in front of me for a second. I wanted to fully enjoy the peace that I was experiencing. 

I felt so free.

And then my front tire hit a huge tuff and the brakes escaped my hands and I lost my footing and came crashing down on the seat.

Ouch!

Inner peace time was over. Back to concentrating.

That was the last time I let my mind drift from the ground immediately I front of me.   

Why Chimborazo 

Truthfully, neither Riobamba or this mountain were on our radar. I really had my heart set on hiking up to the glacier on Cotopaxi but I was really sick in Quito so we had to cancel our Cotopaxi trip.

Matt knew how bummed out I was about Cotopaxi, and he discovered that we could mountain bike down Ecuador’s biggest mountain. I was sold!

Chimborazo isn’t just a massive mountain to be climbed up or biked down. It’s also home to adorable vicuñas!
  
They used to be extinct in Ecuador. But in an effort to bring the vicuñas back, Peru and Chile gave Ecuador around 150 of the animals in the 1980s. Today, their population has increased and Ecuador is home to about 6,000 of those cute little guys.

But First, Let Me Hike To 5,100 Meters

Neither Matt nor I had ever mountain biked before Chimborazo. And with zero seconds of experience between us, we naturally chose the biggest mountain in Ecuador (and the highest mountain in the world if you count from the centre of the earth’s core) to give it a go.

We kicked off at 4,800 metres and hiked to 5,100 metres. Despite not summiting, this is waaaay higher than the highest mountain in Canada…and higher the tallest Rocky Mountain. 

I struggled with the altitude like crazy, having to stop ever 10 or so feet (probably didn’t help that 2 days earlier I’d been tossing the old cookies every 10 mins). It took us about an hour to reach 5,100 metres. Maybe even longer but whose counting at that altitude?


We spent a few seconds recovering and headed back down to 4,800 metres where we suited up and got on our bikes. 

Biking Spirit Review
The company we chose to tackle Chimborazo with was Biking Spirit. We did Route 2. This route is apparently a Biking Spirit exclusive:

We will ride primarily on dirt roads and single tracks through archaeological inka ruins, mineral springs and Indian communities; you will observe magnificent views of Chimborazo’s south face.

Level: Moderate

Distance: 37 km, 26 km on dirt route and 11 km on pavement

Uphill distance: 2 km approximated

Downhill distance: 32 km approximated
Highest altitude: Whymper shelter 5000 masl (16.405 feet)
Lowest altitude: San Juan 3200 masl (10.500 feet)

Total time: 6 to 8 hours

Edison was our guide for the day, and we couldn’t have asked for anyone better. He’s a great guide, super professional and experienced, and packs a mean picnic. 

  

Before each leg, he would prepare us for what was coming. Since this was our first time mountain biking, he prepared us for the first leg of the day by letting us know that it’s best not to fly down the mountain when you’ve never done this before because that’s how people get hurt. 

We never flew. And I never even had the urge to. Dodging rocks and trying to stay up right was exciting enough!

— Cyn and Matt

Mountain Biking Ecuador’s Chimborazo With Biking Spirit [Video]

Volcan Chimborazo is Ecuador’s highest mountain, reaching a sky-touching 6,310 meters. It’s technically the highest mountain in the world when you count from the earth’s core. You know, because of the equatorial bulge.

When sickness kept us from popular Cotopaxi, we decided that we’d take on Chimborazo instead. And man oh man, was it beautiful and fun!

Press play on the video below and watch our ride through Matt’s handlebars.

— Cyn